Sometimes a seemingly insignificant change to your website or online strategy can pay huge dividends. And in many cases, the answer to improving sales requires very little effort to implement.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the slight tweaks and minute changes that we made to our website that had a dramatic impact on our business.
Before I get into the guts of what we did, I just want to stress the importance of obtaining quality metrics for your website. It is especially vital that you accurately track the way a customer navigates through your online store. Do they leave your website from a particular page? Are they having problems finding a particular product?
As long as you periodically evaluate how your customer interacts with your products and website, you can usually spot and make changes to allow them to find your products faster and easier.
The information you gather will allow you to make small tweaks to improve the customer experience. Here are the little things we implemented that helped out our store sales significantly.
We Changed The Search Bar
Because our store is pretty small and our hierarchy of products do not go very deep, I never really devoted many cycles thinking about how ‘search’ worked on our online store website. Once someone found us via Google, Yahoo etc…, I never thought that customers actually used the ‘search’ feature on our website much at all.
But recently our web analytics have indicated otherwise. It turned out that a good percentage of our visitors actually used our product search bar during their visit. What was odd however was that almost 70% of them left our store immediately after executing a single query.
While this abnormally high percentage seemed suspicious to me, I never really thought much of it. Why? Because we get a ton of random visitors from the web and it’s conceivable that most of them were simply looking for something that we did not carry.
In any case, I had some free time one day so I decided to investigate this a little bit. I took a closer look at what some of our customers were searching for and it turned out that most of these searches should have returned relevant products the majority of the time! It just didn’t make any sense.
So I went on our site and entered some of these exact same searches and lo and behold, the search returned absolutely no products. Was our search busted all of this time? I tried other searches to make sure but strangely enough, the searches that I entered were always successful. Why were the customer searches busted and not mine?
The answer turned out to be very simple. A while ago when we were on shared hosting, I limited the scope of our search in order to reduce CPU usage. Essentially, I nerfed our search so that it only searched the product titles and not the descriptions. Therefore, searches for “Mother of the Bride” or “Father of the Bride” returned no matches.
As soon as I switched the search to include all of the product descriptions, the exit rate for all of our searches went way way down. While it’s difficult to exactly correlate this change with the increase in sales, I suspect that the effect was fairly dramatic.
We Added A Pull In Item
I actually got this tip from a sales book that I read so I take no credit for this idea. In a nutshell, the basic concept is to include a popular product in your lineup at a very attractive price. Customers will be drawn in by this one item and then you can cross sell them additional items on their way to checkout.
In all of our major product categories, we started inserting one item at rock bottom prices. We found that while some customers just purchased the cheap items and then left, the majority of them ended up buying other products at higher margins. Sure, we didn’t make much profit on these draw in items but we found that our overall order size increased significantly.
I think this tactic works because psychologically the customers feel as though he/she can buy more because they are getting such a good deal on something else. Whatever the reason, I’m now a strong advocate of this tactic based on our results.
We Added A Return Policy
When my wife and I first considered adding a return policy, I thought to myself, “Why would I ever want to deal with people wanting to make returns?”
But just as an experiment, we decided to give it shot. Who would’ve guessed that adding a return policy would actually make customers want to buy more? The increase in order size was the most evident when taking customer orders over the phone.
Customer: We need to get some cocktail napkins for our engagement party but we aren’t exactly sure how many people are coming. I don’t want to buy too many or too little.
Me: Don’t worry about it. Just buy as many napkins as you need assuming everyone comes and then return what ever you don’t use!
Customer: That’s a great idea!
90% of the time, the returns were never sent back to us. I think that customers just want the security of being able to return something but rarely do they actually act on it. Especially if you sell quality products, you have nothing to fear in accepting returns.
We Added Shipping Incentives
The final thing we did was add shipping incentives for large orders. For all orders over 100 dollars, we started offering free ground shipping anywhere! Once again, I was skeptical of this tactic, but sure enough we started getting orders for just over 100 dollars.
When I observed the shopping patterns of random customers, I would sometimes find them hunting around the site for just one more item to put them over the edge. Needless to say, these incentives increased our average order size.
Find Out What Works Best For You
The key to finding the right tweaks to make to your business is to experiment and analyze the effect on your top line. But this can only be done if you instrument your website so that accurate statistics can be recorded. Not every sales strategy will work for everyone, and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get things right. The above 4 tweaks took almost no time to change and made a drastic impact on our sales.
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